memories of the ’80s – Donna Karan

For women of the 1980s, a female fashion designer made their working life much simpler with her creation of seven easy pieces.

Donna Karan started her career in fashion with Anne Klein, becoming its head designer after Klein’s death in the 1970s.

In 1984, Karan launched her own fashion house, showing her first collection at New York Fashion Week in 1985.

Capitalizing on the modern working woman’s need for classics the same way men relied on a few pieces, Karan created the Essentials line, which was seven clothing items that could easily be mixed and matched for many outfits. Bodysuits, scoop t-shirts, tube skirts – all became high fashion and a career woman’s best friend.

Unlike the overdone clothing seen with teens and 20 somethings thanks to pop culture, Karan focused on simplicity and ease, with classic neutral colours, textiles such as jersey and solid coloured opaque tights which together enhanced the natural shape of a woman as well as creating the working woman uniform.

Nicknamed the Queen of Seventh Avenue in 1988, Karan was as much a model for her clothing line as any marketing program, wearing her clothes to show how elegant and simple the style could be.

Women rushed to the stores, wanting to own several pieces from the Donna Karan New York collection and embracing the simplicity and modernism. A younger, more affordable collection was launched – DKNY and then DKNY jeans, capitalizing on the youth market emerging into the workforce.

By the end of the decade, her influence on womenswear was legendary, including another nickname – “Ed Koch in a jersey dress”, a not-so subtle dig at her power similarity to the current Mayor of New York City.

As always, Donna Karan was the best poster for her style – and as a fashion designer, she made her brand a well-known label from coast to coast.